Vox: Apple and Google are coming for your car

June 14, 2022 Media

We may have gotten a sneak peek at the long-rumored, long-awaited Apple Car when the company unveiled the next generation of its CarPlay feature at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. The new CarPlay, due to be released next year, will essentially turn your car’s dashboard into a giant iPhone.

If you love Apple products (and cars), this was probably a thrilling announcement. But antitrust advocates and lawmakers who believe Big Tech already has too much power over too many aspects of American life feel differently.

“All of the major tech companies have tried to maintain their dominance in these nascent industries,” Krista Brown, senior policy analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project, an antitrust advocacy organization, told Recode. It’s not just cars, she said, but also things like virtual reality and financial technology. “What you notice across all of them is that they hold massive amounts of data.”

“There is a flywheel effect, where the amount of data they have allows them to provide better information. That doesn’t mean that we should exist in a world where they then become the sole providers of that information,” Brown said.

Apple looks to be following its smartphone playbook for its cars: own and control the hardware, software, and services. The Apple Car, which has been in the works for years, is rumored to be an autonomous, electric vehicle that Apple would, of course, have a lot of control over. It’s easy to see a world where third parties that want to make apps or services or really anything for your Apple Car are subject to Apple’s terms and conditions (and any commissions) to do so, just like they are for most things in your iPhone. Just look at how Apple used its control over iPhones to give it exclusive access to the near-field communications chip needed to power digital car keys. That means no one else can make a digital car key for an Apple device except Apple itself. Apple’s refusal to open up its NFC chip for payment services has already led to antitrust charges from the European Union (Apple has said that it doesn’t allow third parties to access the chip for security reasons).

CarPlay may not just be a preview of the Apple Car. Antitrust advocates fear it may also be a preview of a world where almost all cars are powered by just two companies’ operating systems. Brown, of the American Economic Liberties Project, sees no reason to think Big Tech companies wouldn’t try to dominate that space the way they have others.

“Unless by some miracle they decide to overcome their draw toward abusing their dominance, I think because of what they can provide, they will, and they’ll push out others,” she said. “The same way that Apple has with their App Store.”